Harry Grant’s superb State of Origin debut – combined with another Cameron Munster masterclass – has powered Queensland to a stunning 20-14 Game 3 win and a 2-1 State of Origin series win.
Given no chance by media ahead of the series, the series win will go down as one of the greatest in Maroons history.
A penalty against Angus Crichton proved to be the fire-starter early for the Maroons, as they used the territory gain to score the game’s first try. They dared to play for it on the last tackle, forcing it out wide for Origin specialist Valentine Holmes to dive over in the corner.
But fortune flipped on its head soon after, with the Maroons making an absolute meal of a poor Nathan Cleary kick to gift the Blues an equaliser. The Penrith halfback’s kick was too far deep into the in-goal area, but new fullback Corey Allan fumbled it in midair, before an offside Daly Cherry-Evans avoiding picking the ball up, allowing James Tedesco to sneak in and ground the ball right under Cherry-Evans’ nose.
It threatened to unravel for Queensland from there, with Cameron Munster’s ensuing kick-off sailing emphatically out of bounds. The Maroons defended stoutly and then managed to get three consecutive sets close to the NSW try line, but then gave away a penalty as soon as the Blues got possession back.
Controversy struck at the 20-minute mark, with James Tedesco coming off for a Head Injury Assessment – which he would later fail – after copping an accidental knee to the head from Josh Papalii – but it was Jai Arrow’s carry-on while Tedesco was clearly injured that earned him widespread scorn.
From there, the Maroons dominated territory, virtually parking the bus inside NSW territory – but they weren’t able to convert it on the scoreboard. Nathan Cleary gave the Blues a chance late with one of the all-time 40/20 kicks, but they too couldn’t convert.
Valentine Holmes had a chance to cross for his second in the 35th minute, but Allan’s pass to the wing was slightly behind him and his juggle allowed Josh Addo-Carr to catch-up and force him into touch.
But the Maroons would get their second just before the break. A sublime sequence from Cam Munster, who kicked, regathered his own kick and then kicked again, forced Daniel Tupou into an error on his own try line. Munster then kicked across field to two wide-open teammates, with Edrick Lee gathering after an initial bounce back and getting past the two Blues defenders far too easily.
The Maroons came out on fire in the second half, with debutant Harry Grant proving nigh impossible for the Blues to handle. He almost set Holmes up for two more tries inside the first five minutes, but the first kick came off his knee before going dead, while the second one was knocked-on while diving for the line.
The early part of the second half was all Queensland. The home side generated set after set after set in offensive territory, but stout Blues defence kept them away. Eventually, the Maroons had to settle for two after an offside penalty close to the hour mark.
The Blues simply couldn’t get their hands on the ball and, on the rare occasions they did, they simply couldn’t do anything meaningful with it. Finally, the Maroons broke through again – with Grant capping off his superb debut with a somewhat controversial try to put the game just about out of reach.
But New South Wales wouldn’t go away. They advanced from the short kick-off quickly thanks to two undisciplined Queensland penalties, before Daniel Tupou crossed in the corner to give the visitors a pulse.
The Maroons had the chance to ice it a few minutes later, but Holmes fumbled Allan’s perfect pass on the try line to give the the Blues life. The visitors continued to climb out of the grave a few minutes later, taking the penalty goal after an error-filled sequence that saw several knock-ons.
The Blues looked to pile the pressure on in the shadows of half time – and they got past halfway thanks to a good run by makeshift centre Isaah Yeo – but Nathan Cleary fumbled it on the fifth tackle. From the scrum, the NSW gave away another penalty and lost Cody Walker to concussion on the same play – ending their resistance for good.
Or so we thought. A great kick from Yeo set up Addo-Carr, who was then fouled by Allan trying to chase down his subsequent second kick. That saw the fullback sent to the bin and forced Queensland to defend their line a man down. The Maroons then gave away six more on the fifth, but Cleary tried to catch them napping with a kick on third that Dane Gagai swallowed up.
There was some confusion at the end, with a Junior Paulo knock-on at the death being successfully challenged by the Blues – but it was all moot as time had expired anyway.
The result continues Queensland’s dominant record in Origin deciders – improving their record to 14-5 in Game 3 when the series is up for grabs. New South Wales haven’t won a decider at Suncorp Stadium since 2005.
Queensland Maroons – 20
NSW Blues – 14
Maroons: Holmes (4′), E. Lee (37′), Grant (62′)
Blues: Tedesco (9′), Tupou (65′)
Maroons: Holmes 4/4 (6′, 39′, 58′, 63′)
Blues: Cleary 3/3 (10′, 66′, 72′)